Outside attack: Red Tornadoes use 3-pointers to stay ahead of Indians
Hickory made it 3-for-3 on Senior Night.
The Red Tornadoes made nine 3-pointers, including four in the third quarter to maintain a double-digit lead on their way to a win over rival St. Stephens on Friday.
With the victory, Hickory secured its third win of the season over the Indians and at least a co-championship of the Northwestern 3A/4A.
"As far as the seniors go, we are so proud of those guys," said Hickory head coach Shawn Johnson. "They have done everything we have asked them to do for the last four years. To come in against a rival, that makes the anxiety level go higher and they handled themselves very well."
It was a perimeter shooting battle between the two schools in the early going. Harrison Bowne hit two long outside shots for St. Stephens and Trez Shuford made a 3-pointer for Hickory.
As both teams settled into the game play, they relaxed a little too much. Early misses by both teams were caused by a fast pace, which caused errant passes and sloppy mistakes.
Johnson likes his team's style of game play, regardless of the situation or team they play.
"If you look at us, we can't afford to slow down," Johnson said. "We don't play at a slow pace at all, whether we are playing St. Stephens or anyone else. That is the way we play. Yes it was by design, but not because it was St. Stephens. That is who we are."
The Red Tornadoes (18-2, 10-0) built on a four-point first quarter lead and pulled ahead by double-digits in the second quarter. Much of that was due to senior Denzel Dillingham, who scored 11 points in the quarter.
Six straight points by the Red Tornadoes in the second quarter forced an early timeout by the Indians. Jalen Byrd and Jordan Walls both scored a lay-up each in the run.
Dillingham electrified the crowd with two steals that lead to a dunk and a reverse layup on back-to-back Red Tornado possessions.
Bowne attempted to keep his team's composure and hammered down a dunk of his own. Also helping the Indians (17-5, 7-4) was Aaron Grier, who scored a team-high 11 points in the first half.
The Indians' Jordan James made two free throws before halftime to cut the lead to nine points, 42-33.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair. Bowne, who had eight points in the first half, scored four quick points to begin the second half.
Dillingham was limited just two points in the second half, but his teammates picked up the slack. Hickory countered with an outside attack.
Two 3-pointers by Byrd in the third quarter and one each by Tyler Poole and Darius Malbon kept Hickory in a comfortable lead.
"We have done that all year," Johnson said. "It has been different people all the time. Tyler made a big one, Jalen made a big one, and Darius made a big one. There are just so many people we have that can make them. We just trust them to shoot the basketball."
Late scores in the third quarter by St. Stephens cut the lead to seven points, but a three by Byrd gave Hickory back its double-digit lead, 59-49, heading into the fourth quarter.
The Indians chopped away at the lead again and silenced the Hickory crowd. After a Grier free throw and layup by Ricky Miller, the lead was down to seven.
However, that was as close as the Indians got in the second half, as the Red Tornadoes continued to score and maintain their lead.
Dillingham finished with 15 points for the Red Tornadoes. Byrd added 14 points for Hickory.
Bowne led St. Stephens with 19 points. Miller added 18 points and Grier scored 12 points.